U grad student ‘Wants to be a Millionaire’

Shira Kantor

Kyong Halvorson, a University graduate student in the English department, appeared in the last few minutes of ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” last night, securing $300 before the show ended.

“It felt very surreal, sometimes I had to pinch myself,” Halvorson said. “I couldn’t believe I was actually there in the studio.”

The 31-year-old Edina mother will reclaim her place in the “hot seat” next Thursday, when a follow-up episode is scheduled to air.

The show was taped in late May, but the normally indulgent Halvorson refuses to say anything about the outcome until after next week.

“They swore me to secrecy about the results,” she said.

Halvorson barely made it onto the show but squeezed in after the contestant before her took a pass on the final question.

“Since (the contestant) decided to walk, they gave us another opportunity to get someone in the hot seat, and I made it in the eleventh hour.”

Halvorson’s appearance on the show came because of a random phone call.

On a whim, Halvorson called the game show’s hotline to try her luck. Just under a month later she was on a plane to New York.

Once there, she said, the experience was even more unbelievable.

“I just sort of sleepwalked my way up to Regis (Philbin), I don’t even quite remember,” Halvorson said.

Halvorson does recall Philbin’s relaxed demeanor, however. The show’s host is not as gruff as he appears, despite his oft-intimidating game show presence, Halvorson said.

“He’s really sweet. He was very, very gentle with the contestants,” she said. “He’s not like the bulldog he appears to be on his daytime talk show. He was very good at putting us at ease.”

Halvorson said she might give game shows another shot after the “Millionaire” experience.

“It’s just been a roller coaster ride,” she said. “But now I think I’m getting addicted to game shows – I’m thinking of trying out for another one.”

Terry Clinton, Halvorson’s manager at Edina’s Convention Grill and one of Halvorson’s lifelines, said he’s proud of his employee:

“She’s great; she really is strong, and she’s as smart as they come.”